BC Businesses Face Major Hurdles Under Phase 2 of Restart Plan


May 27, 2020

The Whistler Chamber and the BC Chamber of Commerce collaborated on another Pulse Check survey to collect and provide information to government, from a range of Whistler Businesses. Thank you to everyone who completed the latest MindReader Pulse Check survey. 

The results below reflect data collected between May 11 to May 15, 2020, specific to Whistler:

  • 85% of businesses report a decrease in sales volume
  • 62% report laying off staff
  • 58% have temporarily closed
  • 48% cancelled contracts or tenders

Impact on Sales Volume

  • 33% reported volume having fallen by 100%
  • 22% say volume has decreased by 75% to 99%
  • 34% expect volume to fall significantly over the next 2 weeks

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

  • 50% of businesses are receiving or expect to receive CEWS
  • Once wage subsidy program ends, 47% of business do not know what they will do next, 35% plan to reduce employee works hours, and 20% will lay off employees

Paying Rent

  • 27% of businesses were unable to pay rent in April.
  • Of those businesses, 82% attributed this to having to close down/no revenue and 27% could not come to terms with their landlord

Restarting Operations

  • 84% of businesses have not been able to operate at or near to full capacity
  • With easing of restrictions 40% cannot restart and operate profitably
  • 86% report their main issue as attracting customers/revenue
  • 33% say it will take 3 months or more to reopen
  • 58% indicate that BC’s Restart Plan is not helpful because it will not stimulate consumer demand

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)

  • 49% of businesses do not think they will qualify for CECRA
  • 30% think they will qualify
  • 21% are still unsure

26% of businesses will need additional support – beyond what has been announced – in order to continue operating.

Top 3 government measures that would be most helpful to businesses recovery are:

  1. 67% extending the CEWS (wage subsidy)
  2. 36% rental assistance beyond June
  3. 30% enhance the Emergency Business Loan to support opening cash flow needs


 Provincial Overview

While British Columbia has entered phase two of its Restart Plan, only one-in-four (26%) businesses impacted by COVID-19 feel able to restart and operate profitably with the gradual easing of restrictions.

The biggest challenges to restarting identified by survey respondents are:

  • attracting customers or revenue (75%),
  • having enough operating cash for expenses (49%) or to meet safety standards (31%),
  • bringing staff back (39%),
  • government not allowing their business to open yet (31%), and 
  • not yet prepared or able to meet safety guidelines (30%).

Given the challenges to restarting operations, over half of the members surveyed (55%) expect it will take at least two months to restart. 

The findings are the results of a survey of 1,343 member-businesses of the BC Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Business Council of British Columbia, and other partners, with the assistance of the Mustel Group. This survey is the third in a series of pulse checks using the BCMindReader.com platform.

The impacts on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic are similar to previous surveys with the most common continuing to be decreased sales volume, reported by 78% of businesses. As businesses work hard to restart, fewer (45%, down from 67% reported in the second survey) expect decreased sales volumes in the next two weeks.  

Organizations are increasingly innovating and seeking new ways to access customers with 31% noting they have increased their digital or e-commerce presence. However, 43% of businesses expect that they will still require significant financial support or incentives from the provincial and federal government, beyond those already announced, in order to continue operating. 

Other Key Findings

Government programs have helped bridge the gap and remain critical for business survival.

Commercial Rental Assistance (CECRA)

  • Among businesses paying rent, 26% were unable to pay their rent in full in April. The primary reason is that they were shut down and had no revenue (75%). Others had no access to the CECRA program (30%) or could not come to terms with their landlord (19%).
  • Only 16% of businesses paying rent expect to qualify the CECRA; another 27% are unsure. For organizations that expect to qualify, only 40% expect their landlord will apply for the program.

Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

  • While nearly 80% have noted declines in revenues, only one-third of businesses, 34%, expect to or have applied for CEWS, another 11% may apply.
  • Half of those currently using the program are not sure what they will do when the program ends, but 30% expect to have to lay off employees and only one-in-five (18%) expect to return to business as usual (note the extension to the program was announced prior to the launch of the survey). 

Additional Government Supports

  • 43% of businesses expect that they will require significant financial support or incentives from the provincial and federal government, beyond those already announced, in order to continue operating. 
  • Extending CEWS is the most needed program (47%) in addition to enhancing the Emergency Business loan (34%), extending the rental assistance program beyond June (26%), and providing funding for growing e-commerce or other products/services (29%).

Ease of Application Process

  • Among those who have applied for government assistance programs, one-third of those with an opinion found the process difficult.

Impacts on business

  • Between 32% to 40% have had capital projects, contracts/tenders and/or marketing projects either cancelled or deferred (similar to previous surveys).
  • Among those laying off staff, on average businesses have laid off 12 employees which is less than the 25 reported in the second survey, and 43 employees reported in the first survey. This likely reflects the uptake of the wage subsidy program and return of some laid off employees. 
  • 31% have increased their digital or e-commerce presence, and small groups have introduced new products or services (11%), advanced new marketing projects (8%) or advanced new research and development (5%).
  • In terms of businesses that have closed temporarily, the level is slightly higher in urban markets (50%) than in rural (42%), with the incidence highest in the following sectors: healthcare and social assistance – 74%, arts and entertainment – 77%, accommodation and food services – 68%, and retail – 58%.

“This crisis isn’t over for BC businesses.  You can go out of business much faster with a partial or failed reopen than you can a temporary closure. Policy-makers must appreciate that business models will be very fragile during this early stage of the recovery cycle and that ongoing supports will be essential.” Val Litwin, President & CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce

Join BCMindReader.com to continue sharing your feedback on the impacts of COVID-19 as the situation evolves.